Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Amorindio... descanse en paz, maestro raúlrsalinas

Llantos y lamentos y aullidos y un dolor profundo desde el mero corazón, because the world has lost a blazing warrior, a down crusader for human rights and social justice and a literary lion. Just a month or so shy of his 76th birthday, my mentor and honorary godfather and the vato who kept me off the streets and out of trouble for so many years during a troubled post-adolescence, one ex-pinto, self-described cockroach poet and the founder/owner of Resistencia Bookstore, author of Un Trip Through the Mind Jail y Otras Excursions and so much more, raúlrsalinas caught the bus early this morning. The legendary poet, who shared the stage with Oscar Zeta Acosta, José Montoya, Ernesto Cardenal, Piñero, Pietri and a multitude of others took me on twenty-four years ago and put me to work. Dusting bookshelves, painting rooftop bookstore signs and loading boxes of books onto the back of a pick up for trips to the San Antonio Inter-American Bookfair where he introduced me literally to Luis Rodriguez, Dagoberto Gilb, Trinidad Sánchez and many others, I soaked up jazz monsters and read with a voraciousness that stemmed from his plain, matter-of-fact revolutionary stance. From Angela Davis and Leonard Peltier to Charlie Parker and Miles Davis, my South Austin residency at Resistencia, Casa de Red Salmon Press was all about the education I would never have gotten in the halls of academia. I was proud to lug around the jailhouse graphics department in a plastic file folder case. We ran together for ten years until I ventured out into the world as a reverse mojado in Matamoros, then a music flack for La Mafia in Houston and finally as a sometime wordsmith in East LA. The last time we spoke, a month before Christmas, he had not even the energy to give me my requisite regañada. Just a year before that, at a fundraiser tribute for him hosted by actor Jesse Borrego, he'd given me a serious tongue lashing over the fact that I'd let a good woman get away or run her off, rather. "Nephew, what did you do to her?" he'd asked with his traditional good-natured gruffness, the slight scolding implicit. I could only look away in shame and offer a nervous laugh while shrugging.

Raul spent many years in the prison system and thus became an engaged political activist. His transformation enabled my own eventual commitment to kids caught up in the juvenile justice system. It's ironic that his passing comes a week or so after my own introduction to the inside of a county jail complex and a troubling first hand glimpse at how that jail machine is built to break you down. Raul stood up. He wrote and he taught and he blessed us with his wisdom, a sage body of knowledge acquired through a lifetime of experience filtered through one of the keenest intellects I've ever encountered. His work on behalf of Native American rights and at-risk youth in detention facilities across the nation, his struggles against oppression and political censorship around the globe, and his gentle demeanor as a humble bookminder shall be heralded through the end of time. Adios, uncle. I'm a better human being for having known you and need you to know that your work will go on. It will continue far beyond those admiring liner notes for your first spoken word CD from Calaca Press, te lo prometo... La lucha continua.


Tammy Gomez said...

beautiful. i'ma be n austin sat-sun. looking forward to reconnecting w/ the tribe...

...hope it's okay w/ you that i've posted
an excerpt from this post to a new tribute
bloga i started last night:

Annette said...

querido abel,

we haven't seen each other in so long, but right now it feels like we are all in the same room. the passing of raul, even if expected on some unspoken level, took us by surprise somehow, hit us hard. not sure how the mind (or the heart) does that...he was one of those people that you want to believe will always be there, that he would always call back (even if it took him 2 months to get the message) or come out of the back of the little store.

remembering raul, we have been remembering you and so many others. we are in tempe, arizona for now but know that we remain connected, in the ways that matter most.

un abrazo solidario,
annette d'armata y lourdes perez

Anonymous said...

Sorry for your/our loss.

I didn't know him as well, but the few times we talked and threw down the poesia left a deep impression.

Somos todo. Somos nada.

Adolfo Guzman-Lopez